Thursday, April 22, 2010

A day at the beach

Last Sunday was a glorious day, the sun was shining, birds were singing and the blossoms on the trees were blooming. It was a day not to be wasted, so our family set off for a day at a beach.

Off we went in our big red car (oh ah) to Scheveningen. Funnily enough, we weren’t the only ones with this bright idea. 

As we drove (at walking pace), I marvelled at all the families heading off to the beach on their bikes and declared to the Dutchman that next time we will do the same (he laughed).  I was mesmerised by all of the people sunbaking on their balconies (isn’t sunbaking so 1985? – apparently not). And yet again I was in awe of all the sparkling clean windows, with their perfect symmetrical placed candles and floral displays for the world to see (so typically Dutch).

At last we made it to the beach, the sand was yellow, the water green/blue, and there were crystal clear skies. It was my first beach experience in the Netherlands, and coming from a country of fabulous beaches I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Going to the beach in Australia is all about sunburnt feet, sunscreen and sand everywhere. They are covered in colourful dome tents with people cowering inside. Kids have their UV50+ protection long sleeved rash vests and their board shorts, many parents have the same. The goal is to show minimal skin to a) avoid sunburn and b) have less body parts to put sunscreen on. Everyone is wearing sun hats, the bigger the better. If you are lucky you might even have an esky with an ice cold six pack inside.  And if you are luckier again your dad (or anyone within eyesight) won't be wearing dick dacks (speedos/sluggers/budgie smugglers).

Well I must say my first trip to the beach at Scheveningen was a wonderful experience. You don’t have to go on the sand if you don’t want to, you can just walk up the boulevard and choose whichever lovely outdoor restaurant/eatery/bar your heart desires. You can sit back and enjoy your ice cold beer and bitterballen (delicious fried balls) and keep calling the waiter back for more. If you are Dutch you can get your kit off, and sunbake behind glass wind shelters until you are redder than a baboons bottom. Your kids can play on the sand, and you can watch them from the comfort of your outdoor couch. The water is far enough away you’ve got time to catch them (the kids that is) if they do a runner to the water's edge.

Oh going to the beach in the Netherlands is a pure delight! It’s time the Aussies established more eating/drinking establishments, right on the side of the beach.  The OBH and the Cott are good, but it's not quite the same as enjoying a day quite literally on the beach, without really having to go to the beach as such.  The weather is not so hot that you get ridiculously burnt in five minutes.  And when you get back in the car you don't tattoo your stomach with the buckle of your seat belt or burn the finger prints off your hands on the steering wheel.

What are we doing next Sunday?  My vote is for going to the beach again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A day out in Amsterdam...

Recently I had a day out to Amsterdam. Big deal you might say. Woo hoo, I say, yippee, a day off, without kids (I mean without my little cherubs of joy and happiness). We really didn’t care where we went, a day off is a day off! So the agenda for this day out was a) go to a museum b) check out the red light district and c) drink beer. I’m pleased to say all were achieved, but an unexpected event did take place, I had a massage. First, let me set the scene.

We arrived a tad weary and foot sore after a standing train trip (temporary insanity and pure delight from being set free, led to a quick – read crazy - decision to journey on a longer trip than necessary). Keen to get away from the Central Station hullabaloo we found a tram to take us to the museum district.

Walking tall (the Dutchman) and smug (both – but mostly me) we passed the very long and rain soaked Easter Saturday queue into the Van Gogh museum, having gladly purchased our express tickets online. We raced around the seriously over crowded museum at a cracking pace, trying to quell the rising disquiet. The novelty of the multi lingual crowds including a few Australians wore off quickly (I stopped myself to running up to people and saying, are you Australian? where are you from? you see I don’t hear English that much living in downtown Zoetermeer, it’s all Dutch). After a somewhat empty museum experience (not overly enamoured with the art, apologies to the Van Gogh enthusiasts) we were pleased to find the exit and burst out into the fresh air and temporary sunshine.

A little frazzled, we found our way into the red light district, and I was surprised at the age of some of the women in windows (both young and old). It was seedier than I expected and the aroma from the coffee shops filled the air. Keen to escape we ducked out of the rain into a bar (after our third attempt we found one decorated in pirate theme – and no we weren’t looking for a pirate bar) to discover the no smoking rules are rather loosely applied (yes we were looking for no smoking – I’m a reformed smoker snob). The beer still tasted good and we downed a couple and set off for further adventure.

We found a delicious Japanese restaurant, and I realised how much I missed Japanese cuisine, which I haven’t had in NL (the Dutch clearly haven’t embraced Japanese like Aussies have). It was an added bonus the menu read the same as Japanese in the land down under, and unlike other Asian food here was not Dutchified (read - with an odd curry flavour).

Tummies full, we stopped outside a Chinese massage shop (looking pretty legit – it even had a picture of a body with acupressure points on it). The Dutchman opted for a foot massage which took place in the shop in comfortable leather (probably pleather) chairs. For my head, neck and back massage, I was asked to go downstairs by a Chinese lady who by rough estimates was a third of my size (I’m no Amazon, just a healthy Australian, a little bit chubbier for two kids and a few too many stroopwafels). The stairs were so tiny and narrow I had to do a quick calculation to see if I would even fit! Making it successfully down and a quick miscommunication between the miniature masseuse and I, it was established I had to be naked from top to waist, with my jeans undone. Okay, I can live with that, but I wasn’t expecting her to watch me get undressed (she might have been thinking, crikey I’ve got an oompa loompa here – really I’m not obscenely obese, she was unnaturally tiny). She administered a somewhat unorthodox massage (I spent much of the time giggling and wondering if she was going to offer a happy finish – while at the same time being pleased it was me and not my Dutchman getting the massage). My miniature masseuse had obviously watched Meet the Fockers (think the scene where Gaylord’s mum massages Pam’s dad), and spent much time kneeling over my body on the bed while kneading my shoulders and basically riding me like a pony. It took all of my resolve not to laugh really loudly, partially through fear out of what was going to happen next, and mostly because I kept having flashbacks to another unorthodox massage I had in India (I had a man massage the majority of my body, paying particular attention to my lady lumps – and if that wasn’t humiliating enough – he put me in this quasi shower and washed me down – and, can you believe this, I even paid him and a) did not die of embarrassment or b) get sexually violated any more than I've already discussed here. It turned out he wasn’t the man recommended by the lonely planet he was just filling in).

Having escaped my interesting massage in Amsterdam experience the Dutchman told me they were all laughing upstairs about the squeaky bed downstairs, and joked about what the (skinny mini) masseuse was doing. So that was my massage in Amsterdam!

We finished off our big day out with many more beers (Palm and Jupiler) and the Dutchman finally dragging me home to my awaiting family. Back to being a mum again...